The History Of The Panama Hat
The weaving of hats "Paja Toquilla" has been known ever since the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Natives from the Ecuadorian province of Manabi have been weaving hats with Paja Toquilla straw for many years. Using fibers from palm leaves (Scientific name of Carludouica Palmata) the residents of Jipijapa and Monte Cristi used to hand weave what they call Tocas, a type of straw hat wrapped around their heads for protection from the sun. The finest of those Tocas were later called Toquillas, this being the origin for the name of hats made with Paja Toquilla.
Many years later the art of weaving was taught in Cuenca expanding very quickly throughout the provinces of Azuay and Cañar (now the largest centers of hat production in Ecuador). At first they were sold locally within Ecuador, it was many years later before they actually started to export their hats. Buyers shipped them to Panama during the building of the Panama Canal, where they were worn by the workers for protection from the sun.
Since then the hats became known throughout the world as the Panama hat. A new generation dedicated entirely to the process of developing new styles, colors and quality, so that they could offer the finest of what is a true work of art based upon Ecuadorian folklore.
Today we are even more aware of the importance of protecting ourselves from the harmful effects of the sun and the Panama hat is an elegant solution.
What is Grade 20 Panama?
The grading 8-20 on a Panama hat is an indication of the thickness of the fibers and the complexity of the weave. It takes 20 hours for a skilled artisan to hand weave the exquisitely fine strands of straw.